The South African and Chinese national flags sit atop a table as businessmen sign contracts during the China-South Africa Business Forum in Beijing August 24, 2010. REUTERS/David Gray

The South African and Chinese national flags sit atop a table as businessmen sign contracts during the China-South Africa Business Forum in Beijing August 24, 2010. REUTERS/David Gray

Published Jun 14, 2024



In the Social Sciences studies, the role of the youth in society often attract enormous amount of focus – for a good reason.

For a sprawling continent such as Africa, boasting a collective citizenry of more than one billion people, the rapidly-growing majority is made up of young people.

Similarly China, the world’s 2nd most populous nation with 1.4 billion, the youth are found at the front and centre of the country’s magnificent economic and technological development.

I am attracted in particular to the youth-led digital age for; technology is the singular most agencies that binds the international community together in what social scientists refer to as “globalisation”.

The compression of time and space has enabled the nations of the world to exist side-by-side, simultaneously, in spite of the physical distance and differing time frames. Thus globalisation has truly fostered the 21st century one global village that is inter-connected and inter-dependent.

The recent 8th China-Africa Youth Festival, held in Beijing, triggered a flurry of enthusiastic youths from the rest of the African continent and vast mainland of China into a people-to-people diplomacy that cuts the red tape.

The festival was a result of a consensus reached by the heads of states at the 2015 FOCAC Summit that was held in Johannesburg. It aims to promote youth exchanges between China and Africa as well as formulating paths of mutual benefit that will create a brighter tomorrow where African and Chinese youths could compete as equals.

Regardless of race, nationality, gender, creed or background, the youth possess in themselves the amazing capability to weave together cooperation with each other virtually and more significantly, in person, as was the case when scores of young people embraced and formulated friendship amid a convivial environment.

Africa is rich in mineral wealth and natural talent that is untapped in most instances. On the other hand, China has risen to the 2nd biggest economy in the world, second only to the US by scheduled to reach the top spot within a decade.

The avalanche of raw opportunities in Africa makes the continent an envy of the rest of the world. Inter alia, China’s rapid rise in global affairs, coupled with the country’s magnificent record to take more than 800 million of their people – mainly the youth – out of poverty has left the UN in awe and full praise of Beijing.

The participating youth from 52 African member countries of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), flooded Beijing as well as Zhejiang, China’s eastern province. There, they intermingled freely in a week-long mutually-beneficial festivities, sharing experiences in culture, business developments, technological innovations and visited various government departments where they hosted to consummate professionals.

There are currently at least more than 100,000 African students at various Chinese institutions of higher learning and vocational institutions, most sponsored through Chinese funding schemes.

The youth of Africa and China also together visited a number of eye-opening cultural and historical sites. Together, they also launched the remarkable “What Can I do for China-Africa Friendship” initiative.

There are many fundamental similarities between China and Africa, perhaps the reason behind seamless friendship and cooperation formulation in many aspects. For example, both China and Africa knows too well the de-humanizing effects of colonization, having fallen victims to Western imperialism once upon a time.

The two allies also know too well the courage to fight for one’s liberation, having succeeded in freeing themselves from the bondage of Western subjugation.

China’s former envoy to South Africa and now vice minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb Chen Xiaodong, described the youth festival as an important brand under the framework of FOCAC. “It has become a place,” Amb Chen elaborated, “where Chinese and African youths gather to strengthen friendship. This brand has promoted cultural exchange and friendship between the people of China and Africa,” he said.

Amb Chen added: “Through you visits to Beijing and Zhejiang, you will gain personal experiences of the everyday charm of Chinese-style modernization, engage in deep exchanges, and learn from each other. This will inject fresh ‘youthful energy’ into China-Africa friendship and cooperation,” said the man who understands both Africa and China very well from a first-hand experience.

In the coming months – in autumn – there is going to be a summit of FOCAC held in the Chinese capital, Beijing, where cooperative initiatives concluded during the 8th China-Africa Youth Festival will be assessed and improved in an endeavour to achieve desired outcomes for the young people who are regarded as the “future of tomorrow”.

The upcoming summit, said Amb Chen, “will certainly open a new chapter in the development of China-Africa relations and write a new page in the history of China-Africa friendship and cooperation”.

This can only be good news in the horizon. Traveling is a form of learning. FOCAC and related activities between Africa and China provides our youth the opportunity to look at the sky as the limit, to know that to “dare is to do”. When systems are put in place, as is the case in FOCAC, the future can only become rosy for all involved. Learning from each other through win-win platforms, which are the ethos of China’s foreign policy, can only bring about a brighter tomorrow for the young people. When we create time and space for the youth to become themselves – with the requisite support wherever needed, young people is are fearless, innovative and patriotic in an amazing manner.

The spin-offs in the 8th China-Africa Youth Festival saw many African youths take part in a number of workshops where they were exposed to Chinese culture in action, including ceramics, the world-famous traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), calligraphy, woodblock printing, dyeing and also tea ceremonies.

African youths such as Mariama Bah of Sierra Leone, could not hold back their sheer joy at the experience from the trip.

Speaking at the end of youth festival, she said: “I’m happy to have such beautiful experiences in China. The event provides us a great opportunity to engage with Chinese youths and promote mutual learning.”

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